Adventure, princesses, fire dogs and barbarian cats with eye patches! Spera has everything anyone could want in a comic. This would make one hell of a Disney/Pixar film — just iron out the wrinkles and it'd be perfect. Spera, a magical land made up of tall tales and mysterious wonder, is the desire of two young princesses, both of whom have fled their kingdoms because of an invasion. Lono, a princess whose life was mostly quiet days filled with reading books of fantasy, is suddenly pulled into her own adventure, thanks to her friend and fellow princess errant, Pira. Pira, whose mother is the unseen antagonist, wishes for nothing but adventure with her guardian friend, Yonder the fire spirit, and Lono.
Spera does have the makings of a great adventure comic, but it's hindered by its origins as a webcomic. That's a bit of a double-edged sword because its origins as a webcomic also make it very unique. As we've all seen with webcomics, the story is usually told one page at a time and that one page is pretty well self-contained, like a whole chapter told in about six to eight panels. Translating this into a book has given it a rough-cut edit feel. The plot moves forward for convenience's sake instead of fully explaining or adding a needed plot point. This was excusable in the web version because of the way it was set up, but when it comes to a graphic novel, it needs to be more fluid.
There is one other bone I have to pick with Spera, which is the lack of a proper villain. Is this a spoiler? Probably, but it's also one of the comic's biggest flaws and I don't see how it could be a spoiler when you never seen any evil, only hear about it second hand. Pira's mother is the villain, but you never see her, instead she taunts the princesses through the body of a creepy little boy. We understand that the girls are running away, but it would have been nice to see what they're running from. There is just a tiny glimpse and a few mentions of this great evil queen. The way I see it is if you're going to have an evil queen, we should see her be evil. There's no better villain than the wicked queen mother, so what's the point of having one if she's going to be sidelined?
You know what? All that sounded really negative, which admittedly I needed to get out, but there was a lot of good to Spera, especially the way it's set up. The main story is the first half of the book where the girls are traveling to Spera, and after the main story, a series of shorts start up. Each story is a smaller adventure in the lives of Lono and Pira. The main story was really good; everyone loves a nice, wholesome adventure story and it's a rarity since its two main protagonists are girls. Sure, there are a lot of comics that feature female main characters, but how many of those are oversexed? Sometimes it's nice just to feature some friendship.
Also, no comic is complete without wonderful artwork by a gaggle of talent. Just like the webcomic version, Spera the book is brought together by a group of talented artists who give life to Pira, Lono, and Yonder in their own unique ways. I absolutely adore Luke Pearson's short adventure titled "Ahuizotl." I'm going to say a word I very rarely use, but the artwork and story are cute. The whole book was enjoyable and the short stories that follow the main story are very fun. Pearson's story is the stand out amongst standouts.
I think for the few flaws that Spera does have, it has so much more heart and soul. Josh Tierney's webcomic is one to follow online, and certainly one to check out in book form. Spera may look like something for the younger audience, but really it's a fun for all ages comic. It's every enjoyable, and I hope there will be a follow up book since this seems to be listed as a Volume 1. Archaia, Josh Tierney and company have put together a lovely book worthy of anyone's collection.
Karyn Pinter has been writing for Comics Bulletin since 2008. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and was one of those kids who was raised by TV, babysat by the likes of James Bond, Mary Poppins and Darth Vader. In college she spent her days critically analyzing Dorothy’s need to befriend a lion, scarecrow and man of tin and writing papers on how truth, justice and the American way ultimately lead to Superman’s death.
Karyn gladly accepts bribes in the form of carnitas burritos and/or Catwoman paraphernalia.